The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has announced that all RMV services, with the exception of law enforcement, will be unavailable from 7 p.m., March 22 until 8 a.m. March 26 due to the RMV changing over a new computer system that will allow the RMV to comply with federal and state mandates. In addition inspection station locations will be unable to conduct motor vehicle inspections on March 23, 24 or 25, RMV on-line services will be unavailable, and RMV service locations will be closed.
The Registry’s new computer system will enable the Commonwealth to issue federally mandated REAL ID credentials to members of the public who will need a REAL ID credential. REAL ID is a Federal Security Standard for IDs that was created in 2005 as a result of the increased federal security measures after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The new computer system will also have enhanced customer-centric features and more efficient process elements for access by law enforcement, the insurance industry, government entities and professionals who need to engage the Registry. The current RMV system is more than 30 years old.
Between March 22 and March 26, the following services will be unavailable:
- Beginning at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 22, motor vehicle inspections will be unavailable at station locations in Massachusetts until the start of business on March 26, at 8 a.m.
- Beginning at 7 p.m., March 22, and until 8 a.m., March 26, Registry on-line services will be unavailable.
- Registry service locations will be closed on Friday, March 23, and will reopen on Monday, March 26.
- AAA branch locations which offer Registry services to AAA members will be unable to do so beginning at 7 p.m., March 22, and until 8 a.m., March 26.
- Law enforcement officers will continue to have access to RMV data at all times from March 22 to March 26 through the use of a back-up data file.
For more information regarding RMV service suspension, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/alert-no-rmv-services.
MAJOR ACCIDENT ON EASTERN AVE
Chelsea Fire and Police responded to the area of 128 Eastern Ave late last Wednesday, Oct. 7, evening after receiving several calls for an accident. Units arrived to find the aftermath of a two-car collision. The accident involved a sedan and a pickup truck that were operating in the same direction.
According to reports the operator of the pickup was attempting to turn into a driveway at 130 Eastern Ave. when the operator of the sedan struck the truck from behind with such force that it caused the cargo in the rear bed to be launched like missiles into oncoming traffic. One of those items was a tool box weighing about 250 pounds, which landed several feet from the crash site. The operator of the pickup was transported to MGH with serious non-life threatening injuries while the operator the sedan was placed into custody by Chelsea Police.
Police observed the sedan’s operator attempting to walk away from the scene quickly when they arrived. They stopped the man and, after some observations, deemed the man intoxicated.
Juan Carlos Torres, 38, of 35 Jefferson Ave., was arrested for operating under the influence of liquor causing serious injury, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and reckless operation.
Eastern Avenue was closed down for approximately 30 minutes for crews to remove all of the debris.
MEDICAL EMERGENCY LEADS TO FOUR-CAR CRASH
Chelsea Fire Department and Chelsea Police responded to the intersection Eastern and Crescent Avenues on Tuesday morning after 9-1-1 received several calls reporting a multiple car accident.
Upon arrival firefighters observed the aftermath of a four-car collision. It appeared that the operator of one of the vehicles suffered a medical emergency as he was exiting the Dunkin Donuts at 356 Eastern Ave. The operator, an elderly gentleman, struck a vehicle attempting to enter the DD parking lot and veered across the roadway striking two other vehicles, jumped a sidewalk striking a crosswalk light pole.
One person was transported to the hospital.
Crews from Chelsea Fire remained on the scene spreading absorbent for a large spillage of vehicle fluids while the Chelsea Police conducted their investigation and rerouted traffic.
THREATENED WITH KNIFE
On Friday, Oct. 9, at 10 p.m., officers responded to Eleanor Street to speak to a female party in regard to an alleged past assault at knife point.
Upon arrival a Chelsea Police officer spoke to the calling party, who stated that a male party pulled a knife on her at Bosson Park on Grove Street.
Officers were able to determine that an earlier altercation had occurred near the Boys & Girls Club. The victim stated that she and her sister intervened in an argument there and were later confronted by the involved male suspect near the park.
The suspect was placed into custody a short time later.
Jose Colon, 18, of 199 Chestnut St., was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon (knife) and threatening to commit a crime.
As the state’s texting and driving law hits its five-year anniversary, texting and driving – or phone distractions of any type – are a sight more common than ever on streets and highways.
More often than not, at any busy intersection, one can observe driver after driver passing by with one eye on the road and the other eye on a cell phone.
Meanwhile, local police departments report that the law on the books is virtually impossible to enforce, and if successfully enforced, requires heavy homework and records requests – all for a simple citation.
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes said he puts the problem of distracted driving on par with driving while intoxicated (OUI). He said those that text and drive can be more hazardous to the public than drunk drivers.
“Is it a problem? Absolutely,” he said. “It’s getting to the point that we know people getting an OUI are distracted at the same level as those texting and driving. This is so prevalent that I think it’s probably – due to the frequency of occurrence – it is just as great a risk as people who get behind the wheel and drink and drive. If I’m texting for two or three seconds, in that same time a kid can run in front of your car while you’re looking down. You can go head on into another car in that time. It’s a huge problem. Law enforcement is in the middle because it’s a difficult law to enforce at this point.”
State Police statistics for crash data show that, for those accidents that were pinpointed to distracted driving, the numbers are on the rise. Though the crashes pinpointed to distracted driving or cell phone use are probably miniscule compared to the actual problem, the existing numbers have doubled since 2010.
In 2010, the State Police pinpointed 194 crashes attributed to the two categories. That increased to 226 in 2011, 229 in 2012, and eventually 317 in 2014.
At the same time, State Police have gone from issuing 893 citations in 2012 to 3,105 in 2014, though part of that increase was due to a Pilot program in the Merrimack Valley area in 2013 and 2014.
That Pilot program, however, might be expanded in coming years and could be one way to target the growing problem of using Smart phones for texting, e-mail, Internet, etc. while driving.
“During [the Pilot] we used some different tactics, including spotters and unmarked trucks and SUVs, which allowed troopers a better vantage point to spot texters,” said State Police spokesman David Procopio. “This was funded with a grant and we were very pleased with the results. I am sure we will consider seeking grant funding to expand on that pilot program.”
Meanwhile, in local police departments, they are finding more frustration with the law and some said they would be in favor of taking stronger measures – such as moving to hands-free only use of cell phones in vehicles.
Kyes said it is very difficult for law enforcement to prove their case under normal circumstances – such as where there is no accident, but where officers definitely detect impaired driving.
“We see it all the time,” he said. “I’ve stopped cars and stopped individuals and you just have these grey areas. They say they weren’t texting. They say they were just talking. They say they were using GPS…At the end of the day, I am a big fan of hands-free. If that’s a law, it eliminates the guessing games for law enforcement.”
Such a plan has been floated recently by Gov. Charlie Baker, who indicated he would be favorable to passing a hand-free cell phone law. Such a law exists in Connecticut, as has been reported in several media outlets such as Fox 25 news, and it has allowed law enforcement there to come down hard on texters. That state writes about as many citations in one year as Massachusetts has written in five years.
Revere Police (RPD) said they try to pinpoint cases that they can prove and making the effort in court for those who fight the citation.
Early on, during implementation of the law in 2010, Revere Police told the newspaper they were skeptical about how it would be enforced. Leaders in the department at that time said they saw problems with proving a case and, from the beginning, took a practical approach to enforcement.
“We do write a couple of citations a week from our patrols in regard to texting and driving,” said Lt. Amy O’Hara of the RPD. “There have been times when we have subpoenaed phone records from an operator that were useful in a case, such as in a car accident. The cell phone records have been useful to us in cases like that…Our officers, if they see it, they’re going to make a motor vehicle stop. We get a couple a week.”
O’Hara said one thing that officers often suggest to drivers – and even themselves – is to pull over and send a text or e-mail if it’s extremely important. Otherwise, just wait.
“When I first started, if I wanted to communicate with someone, I had to wait until I got to the station or pull over and use a pay phone,” she said. “The thing you have to realize is just how important or unimportant that text is. It is extremely dangerous to text and drive.”
Everett Police Chief Steven Mazzie said he didn’t have specific numbers as to how many people Everett Police cite for distracted driving or texting. However, he said they concentrate on educating people rather than trying to win a disputed citation or prove something in court.
“There are probably not a lot of violations in terms of people getting written up for it,” he said. “It appears we probably stop people, try to talk to them, and try to educate them. Some have been cited. Some have been given warnings. The numbers, though, are extremely low. Overall, the whole issue of distracted driving no doubt is a problem. I think people are distracted in general – not just when they’re driving but really people are distracted overall in daily life. That carries over into their vehicles.”
Until a time when the law is changed, however, Kyes said in Chelsea they plan to mount a campaign similar to the State Police pilot program to use new techniques to catch texters – including using video in unmarked cars.
“Because it is so prevalent we do have plans to address it and we’re going to put one of our traffic units in an unmarked motor vehicle with one observer and one driver,” he said. “They’ll drive around certain high-traffic areas at key times of the day. We’ll make observations and when we see texting and driving – people punching keys – we’ll stop them and do some traffic enforcement…We would probably also go a step further where the observing police officer would utilize a video. It’s not just what we say, but what we see, in case someone disputes it.”